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Tony Stewart wins Coke Zero 400 at Daytona

Chevy drivers outduel Ford drivers for win
Saturday, July 07, 2012

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Tony Stewart
Getty Images for NASCAR

Tony Stewart had an answer for the dominant pair of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

In winning Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Stewart side-drafted and separated Kenseth and Biffle, who had surged into the lead during a two-lap run to the finish, then pulled away for his fourth win in the last eight July races at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

As Stewart approached the checkered flag for his third win of the season and the 47th of his career, a massive wreck in Turn 4 skewed the finishing order behind him. Stewart's 47th victory broke a tie with Hall of Famer Buck Baker for 14th all-time.

All told, Stewart has won 18 races at Daytona, but, much as it did with Dale Earnhardt Sr., the big prize continues to elude him.

"I don't know, but I'll trade 'em all in for just one Daytona 500," Stewart said of his four July victories. "This is 18 wins at Daytona -- we just haven't got the right one yet. But all of 'em are special, and it's cool to do this."

Jeff Burton came home second and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader Kenseth third (after leading a race-high 89 laps), with Joey Logano and Ryan Newman completing the top five.

Biffle, involved in the last-lap crash after he and Kenseth separated, finished 21st despite having led 37 laps.

Denny Hamlin, suffering from a sore back that kept him out of practice for the event, made an ill-fated move exiting the tri-oval on Lap 153 of 160, triggering a multicar wreck that thinned the field for the final restart. All three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano -- were involved, as were the Michael Waltrip Racing entries of Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

Kenseth led the field to the restart with Stewart to his outside and Biffle behind him. But Stewart got a push from Kasey Kahne and surged into the lead, only to have the Biffle-Kenseth pairing roar back past him.

But with an artful side-draft, Stewart unhooked the teammates, and pulled ahead while Kenseth waited for Biffle.

"I don't know -- it seems like we made the wrong moves at Talladega (in May) by not keeping Greg with me and getting separated," said Kenseth, the 2012 Daytona 500 winner. "Today, I think I shouldn't have worried about it, once we got separated off of (Turn) 2, and I was under Tony.

"I think I should have just stayed with him and drag-raced him to the finish."

A caution on Lap 124 for a seven-car wreck that destroyed the Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson interrupted the dominance of Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Biffle, who both had committed to pit road before the caution flag flew.

Pit road closed with the yellow, however, and Kenseth continued without stopping. Biffle, on the other hand, drew a penalty for stopping while pit road was closed and was sent to the rear of the field for a restart on Lap 131.

One of the last drivers to pit after pit road opened, Kenseth also restarted deep in the field, but before long, he and Biffle hooked up and began rolling to the front in the outside lane. When Brad Keselowski's spin in Turn 2 caused the fourth caution on Lap 144, Kenseth and Biffle were running seventh and eighth, respectively.

The first caution didn't come until Lap 81 -- one lap past halfway -- when Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 22 Dodge in place of suspended AJ Allmendinger, blew a tire and wrecked on the backstretch. Hornish was a last-minute substitute for Allmendinger, whose failed drug test from last weekend at Kentucky was announced Saturday afternoon, along with his suspension from NASCAR competition.

The caution was a huge break for Stewart and Keselowski, who had fallen a half-lap down during the first cycle of green-flag pit stops. Stewart made excellent use of the reprieve and soon worked his way to the front of the field.

Keselowski's good fortune was short-lived. During pit stops under caution for Hornish's crash, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon went three-wide and tangled on the way to the exit from pit road. Newman's Chevrolet turned across the nose of Kahne's Chevy, and slid into the back of Keselowski's Dodge, which was parked in its pit stall.

Alert and nimble, Keselowski's crew and a NASCAR official scattered and escaped injury. And with full credit to the pit crews, all four cars effected repairs and remained on the lead lap. Ultimately, all four survived to finish in the top 12.

Note: Kenseth's lead in the standings grew to 25 points over Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was collected in the last-lap crash and finished 15. Biffle is third, 44 points behind Kenseth.

Results

FIN CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 47/1 160 Running
2 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Wheaties 42/0 160 Running
3 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Zest 43/2 160 Running
4 20 Joey Logano Toyota Dollar General 40/0 160 Running
5 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Aspen Dental 39/0 160 Running
6 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 38/0 160 Running
7 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 37/0 160 Running
8 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 36/0 160 Running
9 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford 35/0 160 Running
10 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet CarportEmpire.com / TMone.com Call Centers in America 34/0 160 Running
11 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 33/0 160 In Pit
12 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max 32/0 160 Running
13 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Quaker State / Menards 31/0 160 Running
14 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / NRA Museum 30/0 160 Running
15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard 'An American Salute' / Diet Mountain Dew 29/0 160 Running
16 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King 28/0 160 Running
17 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Batteries 28/1 160 Running
18 43 Aric Almirola Ford U.S. Air Force 26/0 160 Running
19 32 Terry Labonte Ford C&J Energy 25/0 160 Running
20 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 25/1 160 Running
21 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 24/1 160 Running
22 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Golden Corral 22/0 160 Running
23 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor 21/0 160 Running
24 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 21/1 160 Running
25 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 20/1 156 Running
26 34 David Ragan Ford MHP / 8 Hour Alert 19/1 155 In Pit
27 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 0 152 Running
28 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 16/0 152 Running
29 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 15/0 152 In Pit
30 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford DEWALT 14/0 152 Running
31 38 David Gilliland Ford Glory Foods 14/1 152 Running
32 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King / Dr Pepper 12/0 151 Running
33 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 0 149 Running
34 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 10/0 133 Running
35 51 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Phoenix Construction Services 9/0 132 Running
36 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 8/0 124 In Pit
37 50 Bill Elliott Chevrolet Walmart 7/0 123 In Pit
38 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 7/1 47 In Pit
39 30 David Stremme Toyota Stock Car Steel and Aluminum 5/0 25 In Pit
40 249 J.J. Yeley Toyota Jay Robinson Inc. 4/0 16 In Pit
41 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota AM / FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves 0 10 In Pit
42 33 Stephen Leicht * Chevrolet Little Joesutos.com 2/0 4 In Pit
43 98 Mike Bliss Ford Phil Parsons Racing 0 3 In Pit

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